[A-List] Britain/US split: Germany

Mark Jones markjones011 at tiscali.co.uk
Fri Sep 27 02:35:25 MDT 2002

At 26/09/2002 10:42, Michael K wrote apropos Hywel Williams:
>Dunno who this guy is, don't go for his pseudo-epic romantic prose style, 
>but it is an expression of a growing body of opinion within the UK state 
>apparatus (broadly conceived) vis a vis Germany and the US.

Here's another recent sample of Hywel Williams prosing it up (and I agree 
with every word--and what's truly amazing is that Williams was  once chief 
Whitehall adviser to none other than Tory neanderthal John Redwood when the 
latter was Secretary for Wales in John Major's govt. Makes you think, eh?)


A land built on blood

The English murdered peoples, languages and laws. And they hate everything 
that reminds them of the fact

Hywel Williams
Wednesday August 21, 2002
The Guardian

England: the land the Angles and the Saxons made for us. England is ours 
because she is tolerant and decent. Sheltered in her deep peace, she is 
averse to ideological hatred. That consensus view is both intellectual and 
popular. And the television histories do not disturb this 
self-congratulatory picture. Schama and Starkey, like their predecessors 
Macaulay, Gilbert and Sullivan, are celebrators of a happy land on its 
smooth and ever-vertical, ethical ascent.
The latest example of tolerance - so superficially benign - comes with the 
news that Kernewek (Cornish) is set to become an official minority 
language. After a two-year inquiry the government extends its approval to a 
language once spoken by a whole people - and then picked off by cultural 
genocide. Kernewek, having been a threat, is now a cutesy delight for 
tourists. Nobody does repressive liberalism quite like the English.
England is soaked in blood. Stride across the once-killing fields and you 
might hear the cries of the buried and defeated. Our official histories do 
a good job of explaining Cavaliers and Puritans, turbulent barons and 
Tolpuddle martyrs, invading Normans and Hereward the Wake. Saxon freedom 
fighters can indeed be quite the thing, romantic as an East Anglian maquis. 
Jutes and Danes can be admitted to the story too, since men in boats suit 
the maritime race. Shame about the pillage, but still, they all loved their 
freedom and isn't that always the individualistic English way?
What cultural authorities we have all agree. It was natural for the English 
soil to start with Anglo-Saxons. But what came before is ignored. This is 
when the voices begin to be alien and the virtuous story is soiled by guilt.
What capitalism did with the history of economics, the English have done 
with the history of Britain. What was once contentious has been turned into 
a natural order, something which can't even be questioned because it's a 
fact. But England was made by murder into a land for the English.
Hypocrisy, violence and charm are for the foreign observer the three keys 
to the English way. The hypocrisy begins with the history and its cover-up 
of violence. It's still a shock for the English to be told that they're 
invaders, and that their Teutonic language has nothing in common with the 
native tongue of southern Britain. The idea of early-medieval peaceful 
assimilation is a base myth, and one shamefully upheld by many an 
Anglo-Celtic, Uncle Tom historian. But cross Offa's Dyke and there is 
hardly any evidence of inter-breeding with the Saxons who came, killed and 
then pushed the British to the west across the Severn and to the north to 
The campaign was a relentless millennium-and-a-half affair, a murder of 
languages, laws and peoples. And what was crushed by the English was a 
continental civilisation. So successful was the genocide that we now know 
little of that original British language. But it did have affinities with 
the language of the Gauls in northern France. Just as Gallic evolved into 
French, so British evolved into our Celtic languages. Which is why French 
and Welsh have common features: both pitw in Welsh and the French petit 
mean the same.
These are haunting linguistic patterns, but they also have a political 
consequence. The dominant English "scepticism" about Europe is founded on 
fear, not on the pound. Why should the English help to put together what 
they themselves tore apart? The English refusal to assimilate explains the 
country's colonial success. But it's not a quality to be shared. The 
non-assimilating others are viewed as difficult, irrational and stubborn.
Part of the English dumbness about Welsh is explained by the fact that the 
language is a continuous reproach. Even the most diligently anti-colonial 
are shown up by its survival. For the language is an eloquent witness to 
the ethnic cleansing skeletons in the ancestral cupboard. Welsh gives most 
English liberals an irritating touch of the mauvaise foi .
Still, since the natives will insist on hanging around, there are 
stratagems to be adopted. Once the genocide's over, why not switch on the 
charm? This is a particularly lethal weapon since charm is the English 
velvet around the furious fist. Turn the natives into delightfully folksy 
characters who dance jigs and sing sweet sad songs.
This view of the Celtic as a mystical twilight imputes some of English 
culture's worst characteristics to the conquered. Kipling and Tolkien 
illustrate that quality in English letters which is always saying: "There 
are pixies at the bottom of our garden, so let's away and play." John Bull, 
once he's beaten you up, can turn into a fairy. Some of the conquered are 
ready to play the fey game too. Yeats's dabbling with the occult confirmed 
an English view of Irish instability. Wales's National Eisteddfod, with all 
those druids in white boots, is complicit in a similar game of 
Of all the English fables, it is the one that the English told about their 
own history which consoled them the most. But if history can be literature, 
literary myth is not the same as history's chastening truths.

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